The 2019 Cross-District Learning Event was the inaugural convening for the Collaborating Districts Initiative.

The 2019 Cross-Districts Learning Event in Sacramento, held April 9-11, brought together nearly 200 representatives from 21 large urban school districts, CASEL staff and consultants working with the districts, and leaders from the worlds of philanthropy and educational policy. The theme was “Growing Hearts and Minds: Interrupting Inequity and Achieving Academic Success Through SEL.”

Thank you to the event sponsors: Facebook Education, Pure Edge, Inc., Sanford Harmony, and Stuart Foundation.

Keynote. Dr. Shawn Ginwright spoke about the importance of healing as a way to address trauma, emphasizing the theme of “healing-centered engagement” on the part of all educators. “We need to heal individuals before institutions,” he said. A healing-centered approach focuses on assets and strengths, not trauma and pathology. “Don’t meet me where I am, meet me where I dream,” he said. He recommended:

  • Increase organizational support for staff to integrate healing practices into the day-to-day engagement with young people.
  • Build the capacity of the adult staff to strengthen their own healing and well-being.
  • Assess organizational readiness to use healing-centered engagement in their existing work.
  • Start small and practical with “rituals” or “practices” that focus on healing and well-being, then build from there.

Key Takeaways from the Meeting

  1. Partnering with and listening to young people must be at the center of our SEL work in service of equitable outcomes.
  2. Adopting a healing-centered approach offers us a strength-based way to address trauma and promote well-being in our communities.
  3. Examining and reflecting on the complexities of our own and our students’ identities is critical and foundational to our mission.
  4. The arts serve as an essential vehicle for both developing and practicing our SEL competencies.
  5. SEL can be a foundational part of the work of all educators in a community when leaders spread the learning across teams and use frequent and effective communication.

Other Highlights

Equity and SEL
The Equity for All breakout, led by Inclusive Practices Coaches from SCUSD, was a powerful exploration of the integration of inclusive practices and social and emotional learning. In an inclusive education environment all students attend and are welcomed by the neighborhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes to the greatest extent possible and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of student life. In this session, participants walked through a pictorial museum of educational history before engaging in learning on how SEL supports the adoption of inclusive practices. Learn more here.

#LifeDataMatters: Data with a soul
The #LifeDataMatters breakout was led by Sacramento’s Youth Development Department. The session explored the department’s social justice development model, which seeks to empower young men and women to be scholars of advocacy for self, culture, and community. Participants learned about the work of the Young Women and Men’s Leadership Academies, engaged in student-led experiential learning exercises, heard a student panel on the impact of the program, and were treated to an original spoken-word poem by student Eric Wright. The hashtag LifeDataMatters refers to the movement to prioritize relationships and students’ stories in work with young people. Learn more here.

Empowered Storytelling
A group of students in a Sacramento high school ELL program, all of them recent immigrants, told their stories of coming to live in America to small groups of fascinated listeners. The “Living Books” course helps students learn to articulate their hopes, fears, and challenges in joining a new community. By sharing their experiences, they recognize their common humanity and, in the process, are empowered to empathize with others, grow, and heal. Asked to share what made the class special, several used a single word: Love.

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